Monday, November 22nd, 2010

stay cheerful in the coming dark and cold

It really is winter now.  I can tell because I leave the house in darkness and rush home from work to find darkness.  Some thoughts add a nice edge to this melancholy.  Thoughts of the now like the fact that the lovely Sharon was visited today by a truly culchie guest.  A pheasant (not a peasant)  joined her in the garden today and wandered around in the  with the chickens.  This is a sign that we truly are in the country.  I shall have to order my Barbour jacket soon.  Although, I think I might hold off for a bit as I hear that country wear such as hunters,  Barbour and quilted jackets have become the in thing in cities. I won’t bow to conformity.

Another thing to think of is times past.  For some reason I am reminded of our holidays this year.  We ventured to the ring of Beara and enjoyed the sunshine rain.  When we were there I wondered why it had that name and imagined it as the last place in Ireland for bears ( a silly thought of mine) But I now find out that it might have its meaning in the beara or beira or Cailleach.  This was an old hag of Ireland.  She has connections with the weather that arrives in winter and she is connected with rivers, lakes, wells, marshes, the sea and storms; with rocks, mountains, boulders, megalithic temples and standing stones; and with cattle, swine, goats, sheep, wolves, bird, fish, trees, and plants.  She seems to have all bases covered.  It was believed that on becoming 100 years old she must return to the sea and be reborn.

unknown source

This is all old stories, but another old story we discovered on beara was far more interesting; That of the old way of buttering eggs.  The host of our BandB had discovered this method of preserving eggs and wanted a brave test subject to try it.  The idea is that the egg is picked just after being layed to ensure that it has minimal chance for bacteria to pass into the pores.  With the egg still warm, salted butter is rubbed all over the egg.  A egg prepared in such a way can last for as much as nine months.

At breakfast the host and I sat with an egg each (eggs which were well past their useful dates) and nervously tasted a scrambled egg each (she calimed that she never wanted to try it on her own).  It definitely had a different texture, being grainier than the normal egg texture.  However, the flavour was not much different.  The lovely Sharon passed the tasting offer as she had the little man sleeping and knitting himself together inside her belly.  Later that day we came back and the host and I laughed.  The lack of vomiting and stomach cramps went unsaid and we carried on as normal, as all brave faces do.

rooks and starlings

The murmuration of starlings can be seen these nights.  One of these can be seen on the human work migration out of Belfast as we all pass the Lagan.  The murmuration swims and pulses through the evening sky as they get ready to roost for the night. Some of these starlings come from the surrounding countryside but apparently most of them migrate from lands far off.

a murmurqation of starlings by ad551

They are amazing mimics of other birds voices and sometimes human speech.  The strangest fact* I could dig up about starlings was an old battle between the starlings and rooks.  On the evening of 2nd November 1930 starlings (estimated to be 10,000) battled with rooks at Fermony, Co Cork.  They battled for hours and rebattled each night until the 9th of November when the physically larger rooks had their numbers reinforced to around 2,000.  Apparently such battles are recorded in the folklore of Ireland, Gaelic Scotland and Eastern Europe but nowhere else.

*From Birds of Ireland by Glynn Anderson